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Chapter Thirty-One: In Shreveport and Monroe on the Day before the Election

 

For better or worse, Monday, March 8th, may have been the most important day in my campaign. It was the day before the primary. On that day, I would be seeking television-news coverage in two large cities, Shreveport and Monroe. Additionally, there were promises from two radio talk-show hosts, Christopher Tidmore and Jeff Crouere, to put me on the air in New Orleans although specific arrangements had not yet been made. Portia Evans of station KFXZ-FM in Lafayette had said that she would call me for an interview in my motel room at 8:45 a.m. By the end of the day, I had done television events in both cities as well as the radio interview with Crouere. Everything else fell through.

I waited in my room at the Motel 6 for the call from Marcia Evans. It never came. I was not able to get through to her for an explanation. Regarding television appearances, my press release to Shreveport media had said that I would be standing on the corner of Texas and Marshall streets in front of the Caddo court house between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. This place was not far from Bossier City but I had to hurry. A fair number of people walked past me. The cars on Texas Street produced a certain level of noise.

Standing here on the corner, I placed cell phone calls to Jeff Crouere and Christopher Tidmore. Crouere said he would interview me for twenty minutes that afternoon starting at 12:45 p.m. Tidmore asked me to call him tomorrow - or so I thought - at 4:45 p.m. Our interview on New Orleans station WVOG-AM, the second with him, would be for fifteen minutes this time. Tidmore said many listeners would be interested in local elections in places such as Kenner. I might refer to that fact but then add that a presidential primary was also taking place.

Wearing the white cowboy hat, I handed out leaflets to persons passing by. Then lightning struck. A man with a large television camera on his shoulder came up to me saying that he would like to do an interview. He asked me first to state my issues and say something about myself. Not especially eloquent, I went on for five to ten minutes as the camera rolled. Then the man taped statements from others. A slender black man who spoke into the camera confirmed that jobs were a big issue for him. Another person declined to be interviewed. After he thought he had enough footage, the cameraman-interviewer went down the block taking background shots of the court house. He said he was from the NBC affiliate in Shreveport, which was KTAL-TV, Channel 6.

This event had fulfilled its purpose. Even so, I continued to stand on the corner passing out literature until the promised two-hour period had elapsed. I then had two-and-a-half hours to drive to Monroe, almost one hundred miles away, to see if the same type of event would work there. That time did not include the interview with Jeff Crouere on WTIX-AM. I pulled off the road and waited for his call. My cell phone rang at the expected time and we had our interview. We covered many of the same topics as in the television interview the previous week. I was satisfied. However, this interview and other delays had put me behind schedule for my promised appearance in Monroe.

The press release had said that I would spend two hours campaigning in front of the Monroe Civic Center, starting at 2:30 p.m. I raced east on Interstate 20. Many of the sights were familiar to me from driving along the same highway weeks earlier. I arrived in Monroe on schedule, but it was close. Moving along, with one eye on the map and the other on the highway, I determined which exit to take in Monroe. Eventually I found the way to the Civic Center and pulled alongside the curb. The place was deserted.

Immediately my cell phone rang. “Paul” (Turner) of KTVE-TV in West Monroe was on the line. How could this be? Turner asked me to look up; he and a news reporter were standing near a van right in front of me. I pulled my car up to the van. While Paul was setting up his camera on a tripod, the reporter, whose name was Stephen Webster, said they did not have much time for the interview. Both he and Paul were relatively new employees of the station. Their hard-driving employer had given them a number of assignments to complete that day. That’s OK, I said, I’m also new at this job of presidential campaigning.

When Paul was ready to shoot, Stephen, the interviewer, asked me a number of questions. The empty Civic Center was our background. Still under the spell of the high-speed drive to Monroe, I delivered my replies in canned monologues as if on automatic pilot. Stephen said after this performance that I knew my issues well and made them sound interesting and clear. So it was a successful interview - maybe the best of the campaign. Paul and Stephen packed up their gear and were on their way to the next assignment. I stood there on the sidewalk contemplating what to do next.

The sidewalk in front of the Monroe Civic Center was deserted. It was approaching 3:00 p.m. I had promised in the press release to stay until 4:30 p.m. If another television crew came here, I would look foolish pretending to campaign when no one else was around. Where were the people? Impulsively, I decided to leave the Civic Center to drive through downtown Monroe in search of an alternative site. Once located, I would call the other television stations in Monroe to inform them of my change in plans. I therefore drove up and down several streets in the downtown area. None of these streets had significant pedestrian traffic. The city seemed run-down and bleak.

From my visit to Monroe several weeks ago, I remembered seeing a large enough number of students when I did the public-radio interview in a studio on the LSU-Monroe campus. I drove back to the campus. This time, the students must have been in class. Nowhere did there seem to be a suitable alternative to the Civic Center. Therefore, I drove back to that location, arriving perhaps fifteen minutes before 4:30 p.m. What’s the use? After such a promising start, the day was wasted.

Had I known then, I might soon have been speaking to a large audience in New Orleans. The fact was that Christopher Tidmore wanted to interview me at 4:45 p.m. that day, and not tomorrow. In the confusion when I first arrived at a noisy, busy street corner in Shreveport, I probably confused t he time when Tidmore gave me instructions for the interview.

Actually, it did not make sense that he would want to interview me late in the afternoon on primary day when many people would already have voted. But I was not thinking. I had written down in my notebook that the interview with Tidmore was tomorrow. So, at the time when I should have been calling him, I was returning to Shreveport at a leisurely pace on Interstate 20.

The return trip presented another sightseeing opportunity. Several weeks earlier, I had picked up a copy of a magazine called Louisiana Life. On its front cover was a photograph of Bonnie and Clyde. Bonnie Parker was pointing a rifle at Clyde Barrow in jest. It seemed that the place where Bonnie and Clyde were killed by law-enforcement officers was located in northern Louisiana, south of the town of Mount Lebanon, not far from I-20.

That chance location for the pair’s 1934 demise in a hail of gun fire has given the local economy a boost. There is a “Bonnie and Clyde Museum” in Gibsland. Arcadia hosts the “Bonnie and Clyde Trade Days” which attracted an estimated 65,000 visitors when it began in 1990 and continues to attract a crowd of people each month. The event is held in the “Bonnie & Clyde Trade Days and RV Park”. I was interested in the “Bonnie and Clyde monument”, 5.5 miles south of Mount Lebanon on Louisiana highway 154. This is where the two were shot. In the film “Bonnie and Clyde”, I remember how Warren Beatty and Faye Dunnaway were peppered with bullets as they sat in their Ford along a country road. Now I would be visiting the actual spot.

From the film, I had the impression that Bonnie and Clyde were killed on a dusty road in open farm land. Highway 154, now paved, runs through a forested area. As one approaches the place of the killing, one sees a sign: “Historical Marker 1 Mile”. At the location itself, instead of metal sign, there is a stone slab, perhaps four feet tall, on which is written, “(On) this site, March 23, 1934, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were killed by law-enforcement officials” and, at the bottom, “Erected by Bienville Parish Police Jury”.

The marker has been chipped away by souvenir seekers. Someone has spray-painted, “They were my hero’s” in the middle of the marker; and at the bottom, “Bonnie and Clyde were killed by cold-blooded killers” (meaning the police). The back side is spray-painted: “God bless Bonnie and Clyde.” The small gravel area which holds the marker is littered with empty bottles and a few discarded tires. Obviously, this was a historical site which continues to be lived in. Bonnie and Clyde were folk legends who yet stir people’s hearts. My only regret was that I did not have an unused roll of film with me to record the sight. I did when I returned two days later.

It remained for me to drive another thirty-five miles on I-20 from the “Bonnie and Clyde” exit back to my motel room in Bossier City. There were no more activities that day. I planned to rise at 5:00 a.m. on the following day to make one last attempt to attract publicity in Baton Rouge. I might pass out campaign literature there in the downtown area hoping to influence persons who had not yet voted in the primary.

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